Being mostly self-sufficient, I like to think ahead about where my food will come from. For many people (me included), that means food storage and preservation. I also think about my gardening and what I could do now to have food later.
Planting garlic is generally accepted by most gardeners to plant in the fall. You can plant garlic in the spring and still have a good harvest. I have better harvests when I plant in the fall. I tend towards planting hardneck varieties of garlic because they are more cold-tolerant and better tasting to me.
A couple of years ago I started to plant onions and shallots in the fall along with the garlic. I was having sub-par to terrible onion and shallot harvests. Sometimes, the growing period wasn’t long enough. Sometimes we were too wet or too dry that summer. I was lucky if I got an onion bigger than a ping-pong ball.
I like to experiment a bit in the garden and knew I didn’t have much to lose if I planted the onions and shallots simultaneously with the garlic. Imagine my surprise and delight when I started getting bigger onions and just better shallots along with great garlic. I’m pretty sure I told everyone I know that I actually got an onion the size of a baseball for the first time ever. I might have told some people twice…
Planting bulbs in the fall is not hard at all. You can plant your bulbs anytime before the snow flies, but I have found that it is better to plant a couple of weeks before the ground starts to freeze.
First, you will need to prepare your ground by either tilling or just putting some compost/soil down on the area you want to plant. If you do till your soil, I would encourage you to add compost to your tilled area to boost the nutrients in the soil. If you are just putting compost/soil down, you will want to add 1-2 inches of compost/soil on top of the ground.
Now you want to plant your bulbs (or starts). I put the bulbs in the ground just until the tops are showing. I do not bury my bulbs because of the next part of the process. I plant the garlic about one inch apart and the onions about two inches apart. I usually space the shallots out more (3-4 inches) because of the way they grow.
After the bulbs are planted, I like to heap bedding on top to keep them protected over the winter and the start of spring. I use pine shavings or hay, but you can use straw, mulch, or dead leaves. I do a minimum of 6-12 inches of bedding on top of the bulbs to protect them. By spring this has compacted down because of snow and ice. You can always remove the bedding in the spring if you think it is too much, but I find that not to be an issue.
After that, just wait for spring to come. Do not be alarmed if your bulbs decide to sprout in the fall. This is normal and to be expected. They will still come up in the spring.
I harvest my onions, garlic, and shallots when the tops start to die back and flop over. I have tried to leave them in the garden longer, but they do not seem to grow anymore after the tops begin turning yellow and brown.
I let my onions, shallots, and garlic dry and cure for a couple of weeks so they develop a good skin on the outside. I use many of these in canned goods, but we always have some for eating during the fall and winter.
I hope you try this and see what results you have with your garden. I do not claim to be a master gardener, but through trial and error, I have learned what works for me.
Thanks for reading,